Moments before Saturday’s Fall Commencement ceremony, Brad Ellis, a member of the Clinical Nurse Leader program in the College of Nursing, was in the men’s room of the James Brown Arena tying his tie and reflecting on the master’s degree he was about to be recognized for.
“I’ve been impressed with how hands-on the faculty is, how much they coddle each person’s success, and how they promote that within the institution,” he said. “It’s a family.”
A graduate of USC Aiken, Ellis chose to join the 16-month accelerated nursing program because of its proximity to his home and the quality of the instruction.
“It’s been very convenient for me to shoot across the river and get a great education,” he said.
For sociology major Edward Boadie of Atlanta, GRU offered a second chance for academic success.
“In my previous school, Georgia Perimeter College in Dunwoody, I was doing well, but then something happened that caused my grades to go down low,” he said while standing in the alphabetized line before marching out to “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the GRU Brass Quintet. “This school gave me the chance to come back from the whole academic suspension thing.”
Each of the graduating students who crossed the stage had their own story, of course, and all received words of wisdom from Dr. Ricardo Azziz, GRU President, and Thierry Roques, the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Coca-Cola of Greater China and Korea, who gave the commencement address.
Roques, who has lived in 12 countries and has visited over 100, spoke passionately about the opportunities awaiting the graduates.
“Opportunities have never been so many or so big,” he said. “We are living in very exciting times, and you are lucky to be graduating today.”
In Chinese, he said, the word “crisis” is comprised of two characters. The first means danger, the second opportunity.
“With challenges come opportunities, but it’s up to us to identify and leverage those opportunities,” he said.
Azziz urged the graduates to remain curious and to cultivate their creativity.
“It has been said that curiosity is the wick of the candle of learning,” he said. “There would be no spark of learning without curiosity. Be curious. Ask questions, and never accept the easy answer. Stretch beyond your comfort zone.”
That curiosity, he stressed, should be a way of life, not just a moment in time.
Tying in Roques’ Asian experience, Azziz emphasized the importance of thoughtfulness by telling the graduates to deliberately give themselves time to think.
“It is said that in the Japanese business culture, if someone enters your office and they find you gazing out the window absentmindedly, thinking, they will quietly retreat to allow you to complete your thought,” he said. “In the U.S., our business culture really calls for interrupting that person because we are sure that a thoughtful moment is of no value. We are a nation of action, not always a nation of thoughtfulness.”
And yet those eureka moments come, he said, when our brains are allowed to process information and make new connections.
For Ellis, who contemplated not walking, the ceremony offered him a time to reflect on his accomplishments.
“After talking with my 81-year-old grandmother, who reminded me that I’m the first master’s graduate in our family, I decided to do it,” he said. “I’m grateful to her for bringing that to my attention, because I’m not just representing myself, I’m representing my family, too.”
For a slideshow of commencement photos, click here: